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Uruguayan Jewish soccer fans face a World Cup dilemma: Root for Uruguay or Israel?



BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — Over the past two weeks, Israel’s soccer team has thrilled South American Jews with a historic run at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina. 

The thousands of locals who have shown up with Israeli flags have watched the under-20 team, in their first-ever appearance in the tournament, repeatedly come from behind to defeat highly-ranked countries such as Japan and Brazil.

But in Thursday’s semifinal match, Israel is set to take on Uruguay — leaving many Uruguayan-Jewish fans at home and around the world with a difficult decision.

“I can’t choose, it’s the hardest question in my life,” said Gustavo Ram, a Uruguayan living in Israel who is the brother of former professional Uruguayan-Israeli tennis player Andy Ram. “I don’t know how I will react. I have Israeli children so I don’t want to scream for the Uruguayan goals in front of them.” 

The diehard soccer fan married an Israeli after immigrating 30 years ago.

“I have very strong roots in both countries, I don’t know,” he added. “It’s hard, really hard.”

Strong pro-Israel sentiment is common throughout Latin America’s large Jewish communities in countries such as Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. Jewish schools are strongly Zionist and many offer programs for students to travel and study in Israel. 

Many of these communities also cultivate a fervent love of sports. The main hubs of Jewish communal life in these countries are often the local sports clubs, which double as community centers and have spaces named after Israeli politicians.

But Javier Jacubovsky, executive director of the Hebraica Macabi club in Montevideo, said that Uruguayans are also “very proud and nationalistic.”

“It’s also true that it is a different feeling with Israel, different to having any other country in front,” he said. “But we always want Uruguay to win.” 

Daniel Baikovicius, a Uruguayan businessman and swimmer who represented his country at last year’s Maccabiah Games in Israel, noted that the win would mean more for Israel, which has only ever appeared in one other World Cup: the general edition of the tournament, in 1970. Uruguay, perennially ranked among the world’s best in soccer, has twice been runner-up in the U-20 World Cup and has won the general World Cup twice, but not since 1950.

“To be honest, the truth is that I want Uruguay to win. On the other hand, I understand that it would be unique for Israel to reach the finals in a global soccer championship. Uruguay has already more experience, more victories in soccer… for Israel it is more special,” Baikovicius said.

The team’s dramatic success has inspired fans back home, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned that Israel’s minister of culture and sport, parliament member Miki Zohar, will attend Thursday’s game in La Plata. Several Israeli fans are flying in, too, including former Israeli soccer star Haim Revivo, whose son Roy is on the country’s under-20 squad.

Aviner Fishhof, Israel’s consul in Uruguay, had a diplomatic answer to the question of who will win.

“We are very excited, the Israeli team has gone so far in this tournament. I’m sure that we will have a very good game,” he said. “May the best team win.”

Jana Beris, a Uruguayan-born journalist who now lives in Modiin, Israel, was similarly diplomatic: She said she wants a draw, something that’s impossible by this stage of the tournament.

“What I want the most is to see each team singing the anthems… both, together, on the pitch! What more can we ask for?” she wrote on her website Seminario Hebreo Jai. She titled the piece “The emotion of seeing the two light blues” on the field — a reference to the fact that both teams wear the same color jerseys, in light blue and white.

Hamza Shibli, right, celebrates with teammates after scoring against Brazil in a FIFA U-20 World Cup match in Estadio San Juan in San Juan, Argentina, June 3, 2023. (Marcelo Endelli/FIFA via Getty Images)

Uruguay has about 15,000 Jews, according to the Latin American Jewish Congress, in a total population of 3.4 million. It was the first South American country to officially recognize the state of Israel and was home to the first Israeli embassy in Latin America, established in 1948. 

Thursday will ignite a party atmosphere in Jewish communities in Uruguay and neighboring countries. But many Uruguayan Jews, including Roby Schindler, the president of Uruguay’s central Jewish institution (the Comité Central Israelita de Uruguay), are also traveling to the game from Montevideo.

“It’s just a football match, it’s a party. I hope it will serve to unite people and not separate,” Schindler said.

But he added: “I want Uruguay to be the world champion, and I also want Israel to win third place.” 

The post Uruguayan Jewish soccer fans face a World Cup dilemma: Root for Uruguay or Israel? appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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